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Filipinas, Pilipinas, or Philippines, which would it be for our beloved country? When the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) or the Commission on the Filipino Language issued a resolution to abolish the use of Philippines and Pilipinas in favor of Filipinas in recognition of the country’s history, the whole country finds itself again facing an identity crisis of sorts. Why this move for a change in name at this time and how, pray-tell can the Filipinos expect to benefit from changing the name of our country?


A Long List of Names

Long before our country became known as The Philippines or Pilipinas, it apparently had a long history of names given by different people in different times. However, these names tend to refer to parts of the country instead of a whole as we know it today. The Chinese used to call what is known as Mindoro as Ma-i. Some historians say that Ma-i actually referred to the three islands of Calamian, Palawan, and Busuanga. Luzon was also called by the Chinese as Liu-sung.

Ferdinand Magellan named what is now known as Eastern Samar as Las Islas de San Lazaro. There was also a reference to the same place as Las Islas de Poniente since the islands was reached from Spain coming from the west. The Portuguese chose to use Ilhas de Oriente since their approach to the islands was from the east of Portugal. Luzon was Ilhas de Luoces while Mindanao was Ilhas de Liquios Celebes.

Ruy Lopez de Vilalobos named Samar and Leyte as Las Islas Felipenas in honor of Philip II of Spain. He named Mindanao as Caesarea Caroli after Charles V and called the Island of Sarangani as Antonia in honor of the Viceroy of New Spain, Antonio de Mendoza. In time, the archipelago became known as Las Islas Filipinas or through its short name Filipinas. Under American Colonial rule, the  country’s name became The Philippine Islands or the Philippines.

In the 1987 Constitution, the country is officially called Republika ng Pilipinas thus the short version of Pilipinas.

The Filipinas Proposal

KWF is proposing that the country adopt Filipinas as its official name by reason of its origin and history. KWF President and National Artist Virgilio Almario is leading the advocacy of changing the country’s name. He points out that the name Philippines smacks of American colonialism while the name Pilipinas does not actually agree with other existing terms since the people and the language of the country are both known as Filipino.  Others are quick to point out however, that the name Filipinas is in itself a representation of Spanish colonialism.

The resolution proposed doing at least two initial moves towards this change. These are to gradually introduce “Filipinas” in seals, letterheads, notepads, and other like materials; and to encourage the change of spelling in institutions and companies bearing the word Pilipinas. The change is not mandatory for institutions named before the inclusion of the letter “F” in the modern Filipino alphabet.

He says that having three names  for one country is very confusing. He also points out that the letter “F” has already been included in the Filipino alphabet and the change will make it easier to teach correct spelling. This he says even while admitting that it will entail a big cost to effect the change from “P’ to “F”.

Previous Unsuccessful Name Proposals

Almario’s proposal as contained in a resolution dated April 12 has its roots from a much earlier date, meaning that he has been of this belief for some time now. It would be interesting to remember the previous proposals made with regards to the name of the country. There was the Haring Bayang Katagalugan as proposed by Bonifacio, Kapatiran or Katipunan, Maharlika as supported by then President Marcos, and Rizalia as proposed by Artemio Ricarte. There are also records showing at least two disputed names – Maniolas and Ophir.

Pros and Cons

The main point in the proposed change is to attain uniformity and unity in the country’s name. The points against the change include the expected cost of effecting the change, the difficult process of effecting change, and the association of the proposed name to online search results that tend to portray Filipino women or “Filipinas” in a negative light. The biggest question however  is whether or not we should be attending to this issue at this time when so many other pressing issues are crying out for  government attention.

My Say

I could understand why such a proposal would come from KWF since it is the agency that has been tasked to develop the Philippine national language. In effect, it is just pushing forward what it thinks is best to attain such objective. However, given the many concerns that Filipinos are facing today, such proposal may come out as unnecessary at the very least. The changes we continue to entertain long after historical facts have been confined to the books show that our country and its people can never really be free of our history. We have been under so many foreign powers that it is almost impossible to determine what constitutes being a Filipino without a trace of foreign influence.

I actually caught myself today telling my children about Filipino-American Friendship Day which we used to commemorate every 4th of July.  As we move forward, we will always catch ourselves looking back at where we came from. We cannot deny the past. That is how history and national identity are made. Whatever it is we decide to use, whether Filipinas, Pilipinas, or the Philippines, we Filipinos will find our true identity not merely by name but by heart if we manage to work together instead of against each other.



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A freelance researcher-writer who has continuously been in such field for more than 10 years. Know more about her here.

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